This paper is a case study that explores sociolinguistic factors that influence bilingual Russian/Ukrainian speakers’ language use. The question posed by the research is, “What factors influence a Ukrainian’s choice to speak Russian or Ukrainian in a variety of discourse situations?” The results of the case study are analyzed according to previously established factors that affect language use in bilingual speakers in general for comparison as well as to identify factors that are unique to the Russian/Ukrainian case.
The research consisted of a 12-question Web-based survey that was distributed to approximately 2,500 Ukrainian speakers who identify themselves as “bilingual.” The first portion of the survey was designed to gather demographic information about the respondents and the second asked the participants to state which language they used most in a variety of places, situations or with various people they come in contact with. The final portion of survey gave respondents the opportunity to elaborate on their earlier responses or make other comments that they felt were important to note. The author has an undergraduate degree in linguistics and nearly three years experience living and working in Ukraine as a non-native Ukrainian speaker.
The paper is relevant to the field of sociolinguistics and cross-cultural communication; an understanding of the factors at play when speaking with Ukrainians is important in order to help facilitate constructive communication. It also touches on issues that are relevant to the growing business and tourist industries in Ukraine.
The conclusions from the research is that although previously studied sociolinguistic factors influence a speaker’s language use, there are other factors that are at work in the case of Ukraine. The author takes a closer look at specific instances of these factors and concludes that while an understanding of the factors is crucial to foster communication, there is no way to predict with certainty which language a Ukrainian will use with another bilingual speaker of Russian and Ukrainian.
Sell, Eden, "Russian, Ukrainian: What’s Going On?" (2004). Capstone Collection. 216.